Throughout history, the underground, the underbelly, the minority, and the remnant have always been the most potent force of change for the better. I’m really into the study of counter-cultural movements. It’s why I’m deeply interested in Jimi Hendrix, bands like Nirvana, Martin Luther and Martin Luther King Jr., St. Francis of Assisi, John Lennon, and Sartre. They changed the cultural norms and flitted in the face of the status quo to the point where everyone tried to copy them and birthed a status quo reversal! It’s not that I resonate with the ethics of every person I mentioned (though some I deeply agree with!). It’s more that I see how great change is always birthed in the underbelly.
With sincere Christ-Followers it’s always been this way. I guarantee that the apostle Paul wouldn’t have gotten a book deal, or been invited to speak in impressive forums for pay & prestige. It’s not that he wasn’t capable, but he wasn’t interested in notoriety for anyone except Christ, and was sacrificing all for that. In fact, he was combatting people called “super-apostles” that were using their faith in Christ to promote themselves to celebrity status. Paul was a misfit. He did write most of the New Testament, so we wrongly elevate him to a celebrity status in First-World church culture- because we love celebrity. But here’s what Paul said of himself in defense against people who were elevating celebrity over true discipleship…
8 Already you have all you want! Already you have become rich! Without us you have become kings! And would that you did reign, so that we might share the rule with you! 9 For I think that God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, like men sentenced to death, because we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels, and to men. 10 We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute. 11 To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are poorly dressed and buffeted and homeless, 12 and we labor, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; 13 when slandered, we entreat. We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things. (1 Cor. 4:8-13)
Paul was speaking harshly to God’s people in the ancient city of Corinth, who were obsessed with celebrity, status and influence. Paul was showing the true way to influence- to lay down all for the sake of Christ who laid down all for us. I think we as pastors need to learn to become like the scum of the earth- yes- even in American church culture!
How often are you willing to stand for what’s right even when no one agrees?
How often do you refuse materialism and greed even when it’s possible for you to partake all you want?
How often have you been willing to do the most lowly, undesirable job just to live as an example for those you’re serving with?
May we actually reflect the God of the Bible to a culture who is dying to see Christ-followers who actually seek to live like Christ.